From the words of one of our writers…
“If you’re similar to the title and like me are basically to bulky and small and heavy in ratio to your height to be a triathlete hopefully this post will give you some insights and tips from my experience if you are looking or training to do one.
I’ll split this blabber into 4 sections, each one written as quick tip tip bullet points…
- Me – stats, lifestyle, supplements, general training regimes.
- Tri training – current training, exercise program followed for tri, training sessions, weights, cardio, gear bought
- Nutrition – what i ate, when I supplemented
- Learnings – Tips to take away from it all, what I would change if i did it again
Here’s my northern monkey self 4 days before the triathlon. Whenever and whatever ParkinsonsUK is always my charity of choice.
I’ve always been a bit of a gym rat, well more than a bit, I love it. I think I started properly training, or at least you think just trying to lift as heavy as possible weights at that age is ‘properly training,’ back at the start of uni 18yrs old.
Currently I work in London, my hours are about 9-7 or 8 and I normally hit up the gym for an hour before work, ideally cycling or running to the closest one to work before training.
This summer just passed I entered the London Triathlon Olympic distance. I’ve always dabbled in events, 100 mile cycles, tough mudders, spartans, half marathons, but never anything to this level. Always being a keen competitor, not just wanting to compete, but to push it and set a decent time my problem was going to be muscle conditioning. I just didn’t have the correct muscle build for long intense distances. Secondly I wanted to maintain my strength and muscle mass, granted both not large, whilst training and competing without having to live in the gym morning, lunch and evening.
Having learnt the hard way back at uni that lifting heavy with in-proper form and not resting or recovering correctly after injury leads to long term problems, I don’t and can’t go for the heavy heavy lifting any more. I now focus on a variety of different training styles constantly changing it up from 100 rep routines, TRX, static holds, low rep heavy weight, mixing up my HIT training between swimming, cycling and running. I eat clean and healthy when I can and obviously in take a higher than normal meat based diet.
Here’s my average ‘gym rat’ stats:
- weight: averaging between 77 – 80kg depending on training/nutrition
- Bench: 100kg
- squat: 120kg
- dead lift: 120kg
- Fastest 10km: 41min
Heres what I normally take supplement wise on top of a healthy diet:
Here’s what I added for the tri training:
Working in London in advertising drinking and having a jolly good time on the razzle is inevitable, perhaps being northern and generally compared to a Geordie Shore character probably adds to this (despite my attempt at dropping the V necks). And to be honest this wasn’t really going to change for the training of triathlon, the trick was to balance it.
My normal morning gym routine revolves around fast non stop sessions about 40 min, get in get out. I’ll constantly mix in stuff. If Im doing bench sets, in between each bench rest I’ll do some shoulder press, slow and contracted 3 seconds at top 3 seconds at bottom rather than fast explosive power. Big fan of compound exercises, varieties of pull ups squats and deadlifts. HIT warm ups and quite often the occasional 100 rep routines thrown in, which you can check out here, and TRX routines, which you can check out here.
Here’s the plan I roughly followed up to 7-8 weeks I then merged in my own outdoor/indoor stuff.
I decided to maintain the morning trainings to keep muscle mass and focus on the cardio on the evenings. Having always struggled with major cramps in the legs on constant distance intensity this was going to be a barrier for me.
- I started training in the gym first then moved outside with about 4 weeks to go for the bike and running.
- BRICK sessions were a must in the gym even if it was just jumping on the tread mill for 5 mins after a 40 min cycle train, it’s important to build up that memory muscle and get them used to being prepared to transition.
- Lower the amount of weight leg training you do, they are getting punished enough from the cycling and running and I actually found my leg mass increased with the constant hard cadence training (Cadence refers to the speed at which a person twirls their pedals when they ride. Having a high pedal cadence is a good thing, since (generally speaking) the faster you can spin your pedals, the faster you can go on your bike.) When you do do legs, squats with heavy weight and low rep to build explosive power.
- I matched my weights training to my cardio, if I was doing swimming on a evening I wouldn’t train back in the morning.
- Foam rolling is essential along with stretching. I guarantee foam rolling the shit out of your legs will aid you massively with recovery.
- Hot and cold alternating showers, they help in flushing out that lactic acid.
- SWIMMING: I made the huge mistake of only training in a pool, DO NOT DO THIS. Get outside in open water and train for the swim. Swimming in a pool is completely different to open water. Get a wet suit early and some decent goggles and get in that out door pool from the start.
- I found a big increase in the shaping of the shoulder muscles whilst adding swimming into my training, it seems to target muscle areas in the shoulders that weight lifting cannot hit and it creates more of an aesthetic rounded shape as appose to bulk which lifting generally does. On top of the obliques taking a big hit too.
- When I moved outside I trained in regents park and slowly built up cadence e/g 20 km ride straight into 2 mile run. the cramps were killers and most often floored me, slowly I could see my ability to hold off the cramps increase over time. But they never went despite intaking endless salts, stretching and foam rolling. I also trained with a bag on my back to add a bit of intensity to the leg muscles and because I didn’t have much time to try and convert the muscle fibres to cope with heavy lactic acid build ups.
- Bent over weighted rows were a great training addition for core, hamstrings and lower back which are all hit hard whilst cycling in the race position.
- I began swapping in a lot more 100 rep routines into my training to build up lactic acid tolerance in the muscles and add more capillaries to supply oxygen to the muscles.
- Spin classes added in now and then really helped boost the stamina and ability to maintain power for a long time.
- Add in a rowing routine to, its often known as the triathletes secret weapon. Try this one, go straight into a cycle after:
(intensity scale 1=low 10=all out going for it)
rest for 1 min between each one.
1 min at 9
3 min at 7
5 min at 5
6 min at 4
4 min at 6
2 min at 8
1 min at 9
- I found doing holds sitting up against a wall at 90 degrees with a weight held on my legs until I practically fell helped with muscle conditioning and endurance.
- TRX training helped a lot with stability and composure on the bike, here’s a list of some exercises
- Get used to training on the bike constantly sitting in race position on tri-bars, hurts like a bitch at first but you’ll get used to it and the more aero you are does shave time off and reduce effort.
- I would hit the training hard Monday to Friday then normally spend the weekend drunk. Obviously not advisable but hey ho it’s London.
- Compression tights big big help with the cramps.
- Compression socks likewise for these.
- Compression Tri suit
- Tri bars
You’re going to need to eat, and by eat I mean become a human eating machine. Just training normally with weights and HIT on a regular basis requires good nutrition of good fats, meats and carbs but with added intense triathlon training it’ll triple.
- I went by the rough rule that every hour of a working day I need to be eating, whether that be a main nutritious meal, or just snacking on a variety of nuts and fruit. Holland and Barett have a 1kg mixed fruit and nut bag which is great to leave at your desk and munch away when you feel hunger creeping.
- Quinoa and old school brown rice were my regular go to carbs addition.
- I never ate huge meals all in one go more so small to medium size spread over the day, forget routine breakfast, lunch and dinner. It just doesn’t apply when training this intensely.
- I ate at least a beetroot a day, They are packed full of iron that satisfies our red blood cells high need for it, which in turn facilitates the supply of oxygen to our entire body more, giving us increased energy. They are also a natural blood cleanser to aid in taking away the lactic acid build up.
- Waking in the morning before gym: Cup of match green tea with lemon and ginger, your body is at its most acidic when you wake so flushing out those free radicals is key. Two eggs, Creatine and Glutamine with water and also a Cod liver oil tablet.
- After morning weights/cardio workout: Whey Protein shake with Wheatgrass and Salts and a huge bowl of Holland and Barrett mixed fruits, mixed nuts, oats, soy beans and sprinkled with goji berries and a variety of mixed ground seeds. I also added hemp seeds packed full of all BCAA’s and good fats.
- Before doing the cycling and running brick sessions I would also neck a shake of ProLong and have one bottle full of water and one bottle full of prolong and matcha green tea powder to aid in clearing out the lactic acid whilst training.
- Turkey Turkey Turkey. Old school body building meat and great for your muscles along with a recent study suggesting it also contains enzymes that aid with cramps.
- Intake lots of greens, more than what you normally would. Intense training and high meat intake produce a lot of toxins and free radicals within the body. These toxins ain’t good for your cells… Green tea, broccoli, garlic, red onion, asparagus etc will aid in flushing them out.
- Salt. When you are training hard don’t be scared of it. Your muscles need Sodium and Potassium to function properly both when rebuilding and repairing and also in training.
- Peanut butter and jam on top of rice and quinoa cakes are a blood sugar spike! And refuel an overworked body in no time.
- ZMA will help with tiredness and fatigue and contribute to a regulation of hormonal activity if your body is not used to a sudden change up in nutrition or training.
- My highest consumption of food was chicken, followed by turkey, salmon, nuts, quinoa, fruits and then the usual nutritious meals. A high protein diet was essential to maintain muscle mass and not lean out to much through lots of long endurance training by your body breaking down big muscle fibres to feed your more needed finer endurance fibres.
- Three protein shakes a day averaging morning afternoon and night became a standard.
- Rec bush tea before bed (naturally caffeine free) can help your body drive out lactic acid build up as you sleep.
- On top of that a great bed time snack for when the filling evening meal wears off 10 mins later is Greek yogurt, mixed with dark berries such as blueberries, along with strawberries. Add a sprinkle of flax seed, a dash of soya. The slow release of protein from the greek yogurt will feed your heavily worked muscles as you sleep and help your intestines with digestion. The dark fruits will also help with anti toxin clearing.
- A good thing to keep on your bike if you are dong say a 30km cycle followed by a 7km run is some malt loaf like Soreen, just snack on it as you cycle or run. I also snacked on this during transition phases.
- Train outdoor in open water for swimming. In a pool is only good up to maybe 40% the other 60% you have to get outdoors. I would focus on this more than anything next time.
- You do need to practice the transition from wetsuit to bike
- Trying a variety of wetsuits to get the right shape and fit is also essential. To tight and it will restrict your shoulder movements and gives the feeling of swimming with a rubber band attached.
- You can be great at running and cycling, if your swimming lacks your time will be hugely affected, it’s not a case of thinking you can simply make the time up or just focus on cycling and running.
- Foam roll foam roll foam roll, it’s a fricking life saver for the cramps.
- A few days before drink electrolyte drinks like cups of tea, really load your body full of them.
- Don’t carb load to heavy leading up to it, just keep what your body is used to and increase the good carbs. Lots of little healthy meals.
- Slowly decrease your training in the last 10 days but keep the intensity high. i.e don’t do 8km runs but short interval sprints. You need to tail off.
- Ultimately if you suffer from cramps, there is no getting rid of it. I tried everything, it gets to the point in the race where you just have to plod on with the pain. One thing I didn’t try which I have recently learned about is kids ibuprofen gel which is a low dose and slow releasing. This may make a difference with the pain.
Best of luck. ”